Okay, so we can't go back in time and join Carole Lombard and Clark Gable at one of William Randolph Hearst's famous parties at San Simeon, but you can do the next best thing at what the publisher called the "ranch" (some ranch -- look below):
Yes, you can be one of the many who take tours of Hearst Castle, now a California state park (I took three of them in one day in June 1989), but if you want to experience true Hearstian luxury -- and have the money to afford it -- the administrators of the site are holding something they call the "Holiday Feast" at the Refectory. This banquet will take place Saturday, Dec. 4, as 90 people "re-create the nostalgia of those heady times when the movers and shakers of the day gathered in William Randolph Hearst’s hilltop home for a taste of the truly good life -- fabulous food and wine, good company, spirited conversation, and great entertainment."
As you might expect, this won't come cheap; the feast will cost $1,200 per person, although if you're a member of the Friends of Hearst Castle, the price is a mere $1,100. I suppose that might be a nice holiday gift, if you can afford such things. Call 805-927-2138 or go to http://www.friendsofhearstcastle.org for availability and ticket information.
Hearst is a difficult man to explain; if I had to define him, I'd probably call him the man Donald Trump wishes he could be, although the crass Trump lacks his innate taste. Hearst was a newspaper and magazine publisher, film producer (and his movies extended far beyond vehicles for his paramour, Marion Davies), broadcast pioneer and more. He played a major role in the progressive movement of the early 1900s, and as late as 1932 helped elevate Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the White House (although the increasingly conservative Hearst soon turned against the New Deal). A fascinating individual, and his legacy can be seen in the incredibly array of artifacts he collected that can be seen throughout Hearst Castle. It's a bizarre mix, from all sorts of cultures and eras -- and yet it works.
As I've frequently said, if I'm fortunate enough to reach heaven, and it's half as magnificent as Hearst Castle, I will be satisfied.